‘Efficient market systems lessen post-harvest losses’
THE need for efficient fresh farm produce market systems must not be underestimated, as the country moves to transform agriculture from subsistence to commercial, which requires farmers to curtail post-harvest losses and ensure produce gets to its intended destinations without delays.
Knowledge Transfer Africa (KTA) Chief Executive Officer Dr Charles Dhewa yesterday observed that some post-harvest losses were beyond the capacity of individual farmers to solve, for instance, those caused by poor roads, distance to market and absence of power especially in the case of perishables.
“The current heat wave is making life difficult for farmers, for example, at Mbare Musika where they sell fresh produce in open spaces in which it is exposed to the heat, which is grossly compromising its quality resulting in loss of value. The absence of proper marketing structures is therefore forcing them to do quick sales at reduced prices to escape spoilage,” said Dr Dhewa.
He added that farmers could only play limited roles like organising themselves to aggregate commodities with Government and development organisations expected to come in and provide the conducive marketing environments.
“Assuming farmers in Gokwe or Mutoko aggregate their sweet potatoes or sunflower, there is no way they can know if there is demand for their commodities in Angola, Malawi or other international markets. Government and international organisations have the capacity to know what is wanted where, when and in what quantities and should help farmers locate these markets,” he explained.
In addition to eroding farmer incomes, post-harvest losses are making it difficult for African economies like Zimbabwe to grow meaningfully.
“The benefits of reliable market systems extend beyond reducing post-harvest losses. They promote economic growth by stimulating trade and creating employment opportunities,” Dr Dhewa added.
Efficient transport and logistics are integral components of functional market system, which ensure produce gets where it is needed with its value intact.
Dr Dhewa explained that investments in transport, infrastructure such as roads, cold storage facilities and refrigerated transport have streamlined the movement of agricultural products from farms to markets. This reduces the time taken to transport produce, minimising exposure to unfavourable conditions and maintaining product freshness. With better transport networks farmers can access distant markets more easily, expanding their customer base and reducing reliance on local markets.
A streamlined market system enables real-time information sharing. Farmers can also access market data, weather forecasts and pricing information, allowing them to make informed decisions regarding harvesting, storage and transportation.
Small-scale farmers in particular, benefit from increased market access enabling them to improve their livelihoods and break the cycle of poverty. Moreover, consumers gain access to a wider variety of fresh produce, improving nutrition and food security within communities.